Virus Outbreak Indiana Unemployment

A sign advertising for jobs sits along the roadside outside a FedEx location in Zionsville, Ind., Thursday, April 2, 2020.

(The Center Square) – Despite a judge’s ruling that Indiana must continue paying $300 in weekly federal unemployment benefits to residents who qualify, the state says there is no way for it to opt back into the program.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in May said the state would stop participating in the federal payments as of June 19. Indiana Legal Services, a nonprofit law firm based in Indianapolis that provides free legal services to low-income residents, filed for an emergency injunction to continue the payments.

Marion County Superior Court Judge John Hanley late last month granted the injunction, saying the state “is required to procure all available federal insurance benefits to citizens.”

In a statement last week, the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said it is “determining how to proceed because the federal programs in Indiana no longer exist after their termination on June 19.”

Holcomb’s administration has also filed an appeal over Hanley’s ruling.

President Joe Biden has said the weekly payments, on top of state unemployment payments, are scheduled to end Sept. 6.

Roughly 4 million Americans currently qualify for the extra money. There are also many who have been receiving the money who do not qualify for state unemployment benefits, including those who are referred to as “gig” workers — such as ride share drivers and freelancers — as well as people who have been unemployed more than six months.

Biden has rejected requests from fellow Democrats that the federal benefit should extend beyond Sept. 6 for those subsets of workers.

Congress created the program in March 2020 after President Donald Trump signed the $2.2 billion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), and extended it under Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan earlier this year.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh was in Indiana in late June and told reporters he is monitoring the situation.

“We’ve been in contact with the state and we’re watching this unfold very closely,” he said.

Walsh added, however, that his staff does not think it is possible for the Department of Labor to arbitrarily reinstate the payments in states that have decided to end their participation early.

Some 26 states, mostly led by Republican governors, have indicated they would opt out of the federal payments ahead of Biden’s cut off date. Their primary reasoning has been that the additional money is disincentivizing people from going back to work, although Walsh said there is no evidence of increased online job searches in those states.

A Maryland judge recently ruled that state must also continue participating in the federal program, although a Texas judge ruled in favor of the state in a similar request.